“Our suspicion is that there is a link between a happy sex life and the right lubricant,” says Madeleine Greekamp, who organised the lubrication survey. More than 70 percent had problems with lubricants containing glycerin. “The vagina is sensitive and some substances can upset the natural balance,” Greekamp explains. “Glycerin is a form of sugar, which can be fun to use but can also cause nasty yeast infections if overused.”
Others highlighted concerns about lubricants that promised to act as contraception, such as Nonoxynol-9 (N-9). “The reality is these lubricants offer little protection and can cause small tears in the membranes of the vagina and uterus wall. Plus the chance of STDs increases,” she adds.
More than 15 percent were concerned about the use of parabens in lubricants. These chemicals are widely used in cosmetics and are generally considered safe. But controversially, they’ve also been linked to cancer. Greekamp would rather not take the risk. “It’s better always to check and steer clear of using this substance."
Aside from a general unawareness of the potentially harmful substances in lubricants, 75% of people weren’t aware that they can affect the surface of sex toys. “If you use a silicone-based lubricant with a different type of silicone vibrator, for example, the surface of the vibrator may become porous, which makes it unhygenic and can lead to further vaginal infections,” Greekamp explains. She urges people to ask a salesperson in store and only buy reputable brands like Eros or K-Y.
“The main things to look out for on the label are parabens, glycerin and N-9,” she adds. “And the majority of people found water-based lubricants the most problematic – so silicone may be more expensive, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”